Conflict In Real Life (Well, Real Enough)

What generated more conflict in “The Lion King”, Scar or Simba’s guilt?

Answer: Neither. They both contribute to Simba’s overall conflict. Why?

In Disney’s “The Lion King” (spoiler alert!) Simba blames himself for his fathers death, when really it was the antagonist of the movie, Simba’s uncle Scar, who was responsible. Throughout the movie Simba then struggles with his guilt and shame. Now, his feelings are a direct result of Scar’s actions, when he chose to murder Mufasa instead of save him. Which is the bigger villain? Which generates more conflict for Simba to deal with?

Scar would be considered the external conflict in regards to Simba’s character arc, as he is an entity who exists outside of Simba’s control and puts continuous pressure on Simba through his actions. The guilt that Simba feels over his fathers death is internal conflict, it is conflict that takes place fully within Simba himself and that he can control. Yet, like most protagonists, he does not realize it. All of his conflicts are eventually resolved only when he reclaims Priderock from Scar and the hyenas. Based on all of this, I would say that neither Simba’s feelings of grief nor Scar generate more conflict than the other. It is because of both playing off or and affecting each other that Simba faces conflict, both internal and external.

Why did I just tell you all that? Trust me there’s a reason. It is great practice using well known stories such as “The Lion King” to learn how to identify conflict in one’s own writing. Now, I’ve reached a point where I have had to decide what the conflict is in my story. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It’s time to identify the driving conflict in your plot. Is it the villain who refuses to die or a bomb that will go off in two hours that only your main character can diffuse? Is it an evil uncle plotting to take your protagonist’s throne? The scenarios that I just named are external conflicts that your character will have to deal with, but they will also generate inner conflict for your main character. ‘What if I’m not the hero everyone thinks I am?’ and ‘What if I don’t get to the bomb in time or I cut the wrong wire? What if my hand slips? ‘What if I am responsible for my father’s death?’ are all questions that your main characters might be asking themselves as they struggle internally to accomplish their task. And all those questions add up to one thing: doubt. Doubt is an important part of your main character’s inner conflict because everyone feels traces of it sometimes. The question to ask is: will it be crippling or motivating? Will the main character prevail or crumble? Those are things that you want to think about yourself, but also what readers will be asking themselves as they flip through the pages of your novel. 

Conflict is important to develop early because it will help with the pacing of your novel. What you want to do is use the main characters external conflict and internal conflict in harmonious ways to keep your readers on the edge of their seats, biting their nails, and shrieking silently “What will happen next?” If you do this you will be able to craft a story that will have readers saying “Just one more chapter….” until one in the morning when they finish the book. You can use internal conflict to keep the story moving between points of contention and external conflict, or you can have them build off one another and happen simultaneously, or you can throw in sporadic bursts of either/or throughout the novel’s course. Really, as long as it feels right and there’s never a dull moment, do what you want with it. As with everything we’ve discussed conflict pacing should happen naturally and organically in whatever way feels right to you, the author.

Here is the video that goes along with this article.

For character descriptions, maps of the territories, and insight into the world of The Meer, visit any of these pages:

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